Your world has stopped.
Something has happened. The something that should never happen. They're gone. They've been taken from you.
No matter how secure you felt in yourself before, you feel alone. Devastated. Helpless.
The pain. The aching, numbing, pain. Everywhere, so much of it. It's all around you. People are trying to help, but their interventions are like intrusive mechanisms of control. They need you to be better so that they can stop feeling unpleasant.
But you know this is not to be. This is not how grief works. Your loved one is gone, and you know that the suppression of your love via the masking of your pains would be catastrophic.
You see, you already know that you're not going to find closure. You're not going to move through the five stages of grief, as if grief were a problem with a linear prescription. You're not going to let go.
And, no, you're not going to live happily ever after. Because that is a delusion perpetuated by those who do not want to be uncomfortable with you in your pain. There is no happily ever after, there is only the ever after. What happens in that ever after is complex, messy, tender, and yes, happy. Our lives are a series of movements. The love and the grace and the pain and the thousands upon thousands of wails, it's all there. All of it. It could not be any other way.
Instead, you're going to live. You're going to weep and scream and transform and smile in the tenderness of nostalgia. You're going to give of yourself, and you're going to live until you die. In that life you're going to find a plethora of joys, contradictions, longings, and beauties. It won't all make sense. Some people will rally to your side, while others will abandon you. But as you choose to proceed, you'll need to remain cognizant of the fact that this is your grief, your pilgrimage, and no one gets to dictate how that will unfold.
I want to embrace every one of those I've lost, and every one I know who's lost someone. I want to stand with them in solidarity, and do what I am called to do. You probably do as well. But it's brutally difficult, isn't it? This is why we cannot do this alone. We need to be broken alongside each other.
I miss my friends terribly. I want them back. I want to hug their memories and wrap my arms around them. I know I can't, but I still want to. You probably do too, don't you? You want to give them shelter. You want to hold them in your arms. You want to see their eyes meet yours. And say the words. The words that only you could say to them.
I do, so very often. I want to offer my everything to them. I want my world to meet their world such that they can hear my voice again.
I want to say, to borrow from my friend Esme's forthcoming book, The Border of Paradise:
"Sorry, sorry, I am so sorry, in the way that someone newly smitten can only say, I love you, I love you, I love you."
I want to say these words not because they will fix anything, but because they will give voice to all that I am. They will abjure the terrible cultural narrative that tells me to move on by desecrating its claims with a thousand exhortations of love. You know what I mean, don't you?
I live a disciplined, beautiful life now, in so many ways. Yet my successes are but shadows of the love I still carry for those who are no longer with me. I didn't realize just how true this was until the successes met me. I said hello, offered my gratitude, and promised to carry the successes into the future for good.
No matter how fortunate I am, I want to be with the others who've suffered this calamity as well. The other dying people who've lost the dead. Because we're all dying. Our running from it exacerbates its trauma in indescribable ways. I cannot stand for that. I'd rather be viewed as a negative downer who chose to acknowledge the reality of the loss that has enveloped so many than as a starry-eyed optimist who used the empty promises of wishful thinking as a means to make others conform to a story in which everything must work out in the end.
I want to stand with every one of those who has buried their beloveds, recognizing the horrific pains they've been conditioned to hide for the entirety of their grieving lives. I want to look every one of them in the eye, and say nothing. I want to rip the fucking paradigm of "victimhood" out of the soul of every rape survivor, every combat veteran, every parent who's lost a child, and lay it bare.
I want to “help” by embracing the fact that I’ll never be able to “do anything” except acknowledge the reality of the loss you’ve endured.
After all, what is life but acknowledgement? How can we not acknowledge that which we have experienced? How can we be such cowards as to avoid the reality of tragedy?
We can't. Not really, anyway. We all bleed in our own way. The choice is in how we will bleed. Will we bleed in love, or avoidance? The former is much riskier, but far more honest. The latter is easier, but far more damaging.
As you long for those you love, you'll probably notice that many really want you to be better. You'll feel both implicit and explicit pressures to make yourself better, as quickly as possible. But remember this, please: you don't have to get better right now. You can be in great pain and full of so much love at the same time. Those who claim that you must "love yourself" in order to love others have no idea what they're talking about. This claim is a mindless platitude that completely ignores the complexities of the human experience.
No. Instead just recognize that in the fullness of time, you will give all that you can. Not more than you can, but what you can.
I don't want to repair you. I want to bear witness to you, and encourage you to bear witness to others. The gift of silence in presence is so beautiful it hurts. To offer your brokenness into the brokenness of one who is anguished in loss is an act of remarkable bravery.
You are not a failure if your sorrow has remained with you years after the loss of one you so mightily adored. Do not let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
There are some I will never see again. I would give all that I am to see him again, and tell him I'm sorry. I would sacrifice everything to hold her, in my arms, and tell her I love her, just one more time.
I still get afraid, all the time. I still weep for those I have lost. I still want to hide away in the corner, holding onto the ludicrous hope that throwing in the towel would be less painful than having to face myself.
Yet I can't. I must stand. I must allow myself to be broken, pained, wounded, and act anyway. For now, I'm going to rise, and move, knowing that it is ok to not be ok. I'm going to wail, ache, and cry more tears than I can offer, knowing that they will never suffice, without shame. I ask you to do the same.
These tears are our love, bleeding.
Give them freely.